2023 presidential election and the unity of Nigeria
By Olusegun Runsewe
NIGERIA is a great nation, immensely endowed with vast human and material resources. With a vast verdant expanse and a population of over 200 million people, the possibilities of Nigeria’s greatness are almost limitless. The rest of Africa looks up to Nigeria to provide the necessary leadership required to galvanize the continent to the actualization of its vision of growth and development. Many African leaders, past and present, have openly stated that when Nigeria sneezes, the rest of Africa catches cold. This underscores the level of regard Africa has for Nigeria as a big brother and the giant of Africa. Indeed, Nigeria has continued to display the disposition required of its position as the leader of Africa. We spearheaded the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, South Africa amongst others. We played a leading role in the establishment of Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) as well as the Organization of Africa Unity (OAU) now African Union (AU). We played a key role in the formation of ECOMOG in the effort to restore peace, law and order in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Nigeria has severally sacrificed man and materials to ensure continental peace, social harmony stability, growth and development in Africa.
In the light of the foregoing, it is highly worrisome that the just concluded 2023 presidential election of February 25 has precipitated undue political tension in our land. It is unfortunate that elections in Nigeria have tended to become platforms for appealing to primordial sentiments of ethnicity and religion. We have turned our political space into a theatre of war riddled with hate speech, mud-slinging, character assassination and all forms of verbal assault. All the unhealthy and unprofitable political practice played out so prominently in the build up to the 2023 presidential election that the Father Coker and General Abdulsalami’s peace building committee had to hurriedly convene a second presidential peace accord, few days to the election.
It is to the glory of God that the heated political landscape did not degenerate into violent crises. The presidential election has been held and the results have been announced. The right thing to do now is for us to come together as patriotic Nigerians and as stakeholders in the Nigeria project, to earnestly commence the process of rebuilding our nation.
We should remember that election is like a game. In the political game of election, there has to be a winner and a loser. The beauty of any political game, like every other game, is for the losers to accept defeat in the spirit of sportsmanship and for the winner to be magnanimous in victory. Accordingly, I urge those who emerged victorious to immediately reach out to those who lost in the spirit of mutual respect and statesmanship. We should henceforth desist from all forms of provocative statements that tend to mock or undermine the sensibility of those that lost in the election. It is clear that all presidential aspirants came off with genuine enthusiastic intention and burning desire to serve the nation. Although the approaches as indicated in the political manifestos of the various parties may have been different, the underlining motivation is service to the nation in its greatest interest.
Let me at this point commend the National Peace Committee spearheaded by General Abdulsalami Abubakar and Father Mathew Coker for navigating the campaign razzmatazz out of the murky waters. That committee members have demonstrated once again, their abiding commitment to the unity, peace and development of our dear nation. May I therefore humbly urge the committee not to rest on its oarls until we successfully transit into the next regime. They should continue to appeal for peace and douse the political tension generated by the election. It is pertinent to point out that we have no other country outside Nigeria. This is why our leaders and stakeholders must continue to lead in the campaign to ensure sustainable peace, national unity and harmonious co-existence. The circumstances of the moment call for the intervention of our political leaders and past heads of state who are still alive; our religious leaders through their various organisations like the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Jama’atu Nasril Islam and our Traditional Institutions and others to help the nation keep the peace. These personalities and associations have enormous influence on their vast followers and are in the best position to chart course for sustainable peace in Nigeria.
It will be out of order to say that those who feel genuinely aggrieved and short-changed in the electoral process should not do what is required by law. The point is that there are laid down processes and procedures for seeking redress when we feel we have been denied of our right. This is the right and reasonable path to follow. Finally, I wish to conclude by emphasising, as former President Goodluck Jonathan once said, that the electoral victory of anybody is not worth the blood of another Nigerian. Though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand. We must continue to be united as brother so that the labour of our heroes past shall not be in vain.
- Otunba Runsewe is the Director General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC).
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